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EUROPEAN UNION

IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?

What percentage of the European Union's population are non-EU residents and which countries have the highest numbers of residents from outside the EU? New figures reveal all.

IN NUMBERS: How many non-EU citizens live in European Union countries?
European Union flags are seen outside the European Council's building in Brussels on March 17, 2022. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

In 2021, 23.7 million non-EU citizens were living in EU countries, making up 5.3 percent of the total EU population, according to the European statistical office Eurostat.

This number now includes about a million UK citizens, which is no longer an EU member. In comparison, some 13.7 million EU citizens live in an EU state other than their own.

In relation to the national population, citizens from countries that are not part of the EU represent the majority of non-nationals in most EU states.

Eurostat reports that “in absolute terms, the largest numbers of non-nationals living in the EU Member States were found in Germany (10.6 million people), Spain (5.4 million), France and Italy (both 5.2 million). Non-nationals in these four Member States collectively represented 70.3 percent of the total number of non-nationals living in all EU Member States.”  

Only in Luxembourg, Cyprus, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands and Slovakia the majority of non-nationals are other EU citizens. In Luxembourg, 47 percent of the population is made of non-nationals)

How many non-EU nationals live in the EU? Source: Eurostat

In relative terms, the EU member states with the highest share of non-EU residents were Estonia (14%), Latvia (13%), Malta (12%), Luxembourg (9%), Austria, Cyprus and Spain (8%), Germany, Greece, Slovenia and Sweden (7%), France, Ireland, Italy and Sweden (6%).

In Switzerland the proportion is 9 percent and in Norway 4 percent, but in both these non-EU states, the majority of foreign residents are EU citizens (16% and 7% of the total population respectively).

Based on data provided by Eurostat, the most common non-EU nationalities in the countries covered by The Local are:

Austria: Serbia (1.4%)

Denmark: Syria (0.6%)

France: Algeria and Morocco (0.9%)

Germany: Turkey (1.6%)

Italy: Albania and Morocco (0.7%)

Norway: Syria (0.6%)

Spain: Morocco (1.6%)

Sweden: Syria (0.9%)

Switzerland: Turkey and North Macedonia (0.8%)

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VISAS

Worker, retiree or investor: What type of Spanish visa do I need?

If you’re from a non-EU country you will need a visa in order to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days, but knowing which type of permit is best for you can be tricky. Here's how to find the right one for you based on your circumstances.

Worker, retiree or investor: What type of Spanish visa do I need?

If you are a citizen of a non-EU country then you may benefit from the 90-day rule, allowing you to visit Spain for 90 days out of every 180 without needing a visa. Countries including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia all benefit from this rule.

Citizens of certain countries require a visa even for a short trip – find the full list here.

However, the tricky part comes when you want to move to Spain and spend longer than just those three months. What are your visa options, whether you want to move to Spain to retire, to work or even to set up your own business? 

Retirees:

The best option for retirees is to apply for the non-lucrative visa (NLV). This allows you to live in Spain for one year, but as the name suggests you are not allowed to work.

In order to apply an applicant must show they have €27,792 at their disposal for one year (€34,740 if it’s a couple), as well as comprehensive health insurance.

If you want to stay in Spain beyond this year, you can either renew it for a further two years (again proving you have the financial means) or change your visa for a work permit or a self-employed permit through the residence modification process.

The NLV is also the best option for those who want to live abroad temporarily. Those who want to stay in Spain for more than three months, but are not planning on living here permanently. It’s ideal for those on a sabbatical for example who have savings or investments and who do not need to work in Spain while here, but want to stay here for a year. It’s also the best option for those who have the financial means to do so.

READ ALSO: What are the pros and cons of Spain’s non-lucrative visa?

retiree in Spain

The NLV is the right visa for most non-EU retirees who want to live in Spain. Photo: pasja1000 / Pixabay

Workers:

If you plan on moving to Spain for work or in order to look for a job, then you will need a work permit. Unfortunately getting a work permit can be tricky because in most cases as a non-EU national, the position you apply for must be on Spain’s shortage occupation list.

Your employer will also have to prove that there were no other suitable candidates within the EU to be able to fulfill the vacancy. This means that only highly skilled workers or those that work in industries that need workers are likely to be successful. These mostly include jobs in the maritime or fishing industries or sports coaches.

If you are wanting to become self-employed, then the entrepreneur visa could be a good option, allowing you to live in Spain for one year in order to open up a business. Be aware however your business must be considered as anything of innovative character with special economic interest for Spain.

You will have to prove you have the necessary qualifications to set up your business and will also have to submit your business plan to the authorities for it to be approved. The entrepreneur visa can be extended for a further two years after your initial one has been granted.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Spain’s visa for entrepreneurs

Investors:

If money is no object and you want to invest in a Spanish property then, you’ll want to apply for Spain’s golden visa. To be eligible, you must invest €500,000 before taxes in a property here. It won’t allow you to work, but it will allow you access to the entire Schengen area. This will also allow your spouse and any dependent children to move to Spain with you.

Another option for investors is the entrepreneur visa as described above, if you want to use your investment to set up a business in Spain.

Joining family members:

If you happen to have a family member who is an EU citizen and lives in Spain or a non-EU relative that has residency in Spain, then you have another option. This is called the family reunification visa. However, in order to be eligible, you need to be a spouse or a dependent child and your relative must have the means to financially support you. 

READ ALSO:

Students:

Enrolling on a course and applying for a student visa is one way for non-EU citizens of any age can live in Spain beyond the regular length of a tourist stay. 

You will have to apply for a short-term or long-term student visa, depending on the length of their course. A student advantages can several advantages such as being able to work part-time or bringing over family members. 

READ MORE: What are the pros and cons of Spain’s student visa?

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